Usability Evaluation of Public Web Mapping Sites
Web mapping sites are interactive maps that are accessed via Webpages. With the rapid development of Internet and Geographic Information System (GIS) field, public web mapping sites are not foreign to people. Nowadays, people use these web mapping sites for various reasons, in that increasing maps and related map services of web mapping sites are freely available for end users. Thus, increased users of web mapping sites led to more usability studies. Usability Engineering (UE), for instance, is an approach for analyzing and improving the usability of websites through examining and evaluating an interface. In this research, UE method was employed to explore usability problems of four public web mapping sites, analyze the problems quantitatively and provide guidelines for future design based on the test results.
Firstly, the development progress for usability studies were described, and simultaneously several usability evaluation methods such as Usability Engineering (UE), User-Centered Design (UCD) and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) were generally introduced. Then the method and procedure of experiments for the usability test were presented in detail. In this usability evaluation experiment, four public web mapping sites (Google Maps, Bing maps, Mapquest, Yahoo Maps) were chosen as the testing websites. And 42 people, who having different GIS skills (test users or experts), gender (male or female), age and nationality, participated in this test to complete the several test tasks in different teams. The test comprised three parts: a pretest background information questionnaire, several test tasks for quantitative statistics and progress analysis, and a posttest questionnaire. The pretest and posttest questionnaires focused on gaining the verbal explanation of their actions qualitatively. And the design for test tasks targeted at gathering quantitative data for the errors and problems of the websites. Then, the results mainly from the test part were analyzed. The success rate from different public web mapping sites was calculated and compared, and displayed by the means of diagram. And the answers from questionnaires were also classified and organized in this part. Moreover, based on the analysis, this paper expands the discussion about the layout, map visualization, map tools, search logic and etc. Finally, this paper closed with some valuable guidelines and suggestions for the design of public web mapping sites. Also, limitations for this research stated in the end.